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Calcutta Chinese Recipes

Chinese A La Kolkata: Indo-Chinese food recipes

This cuisine is a unique result of the food of those who migrated from China that was tempered to suit the taste buds of the people of their adopted land

Durri Bhalla | Published 17.07.22, 02:50 AM

The most popular origin story of the Indo-Chinese cuisine resides with the Chinese of Kolkata who immigrated to colonial India around 250 years ago. Waves of immigrants from the Guangdong province of China fled to India, especially to Kolkata, due to a civil war, famine and poverty, in search of safety and prosperity. The Hakka Chinese mainly took up shoemaking and tanning for livelihood. The Cantonese took up carpentry and the Hubeinese made a name for themselves as dentists. These early Chinese in Kolkata settled mainly in the Tiretti and Tangra areas. In due course, they opened restaurants, among other establishments, and adapted their culinary styles to suit the tastes of their Indian patrons. Today, Kolkata has the only Chinatown in the country and ‘Kolkata Chinese’ cuisine has developed an identity independent of the Chinese cuisine available elsewhere in the world. Here are the recipes, from starter and soup to mains, that will let you serve a full Kolkata Chinese-style meal.

CHICKEN/VEG SPRING ROLLS

A very popular Indo-Chinese starter, it is crunchy with all the goodies inside. You can make these and freeze them for frying later. Even at home parties, guests will love it as a snack before mealtime.

INGREDIENTS

#For the filling

  •  Ginger: 1tbsp chopped
  •  Chicken: 250g boneless, boiled and shredded
  •  Cabbage: 1 cup shredded
  •  Carrots: ½ cup shredded
  •  Capsicum: ½ cup, sliced thinly
  •  Bean sprouts: ½ cups
  •  Soya sauce: 1tbsp
  •  Spring onions: ¼ cup, finely chopped
  •  Ajinomoto (optional): A pinch

#For the wrappers

  •  Egg: 1
  •  Flour: 4tbsp
  •  Cornflour: 4tbsp
  •  Water: ½ cup (approximately)
  •  Salt: ¼tsp

(NOTE: For vegetarian wrappers, use ½ cup flour, 1 cup milk, a pinch of soda bicarb and ½tsp salt)

METHOD

#For the wrappers

  •  Sift flour and cornflour. Add salt and egg and mix well. Add enough water to get a thin pouring consistency.
  •  Heat a tawa/frying pan on medium heat. Pour 2tbsp of batter and twirl the pan around till the batter is spread thinly.
  •  Cook the pancakes only on one side. Remove and keep aside. Make all the pancakes and keep aside. You can dust lightly with cornflour if you think they are going to stick when stacking.

#For the filling

  •  Heat 1tbsp oil. Add ginger. Saute till colour changes.
  •  Add the chicken and remaining vegetables. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
  •  Add salt, soya sauce and ajinomoto (optional).
  •  The filling should be dry. Remove and cool.

#To make the spring rolls

  •  Put 2tbsp of filling on the cooked side of the pancake. Moisten the edges with flour paste.
  •  First fold ½ inch from the other two sides so as to seal the filling. Then roll up. Arrange the rolls on a tray and cover with cling foil.
  •  Refrigerate for ½ hour.
  •  Then deep-fry over medium heat till they are nice and golden brown and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper. When serving you can cut diagonally in half and serve with chilli sauce.

TANGRA-STYLE THAI SOUP (NON-VEG/ VEG)

There is nothing Thai about this soup. Not even the ingredients. The beauty of this soup is that you can customise and make it non-veg or veg. The magic is in the stock and fresh ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

#For the chicken stock (vegetarians can make the stock minus the non-veg items)

  •  Water: 8 cups
  •  Chicken bones: The more you put the better
  •  Carrot: 1, cut into chunks
  •  Onion: 1, cut in halves
  •  Ginger: 1-inch piece
  •  Cloves: 4-5, whole
  •  Bay leaf: 1
  •  Peppercorns: 10
  •  Celery: 1 stick
  •  Salt: 1tsp

#For the soup

  •  Chicken stock/vegetable stock: 6 cups
  •  Cornflour: 1tbsp
  •  Egg: 1, beaten (vegetarians can avoid this)
  •  Chicken: 300g, cut into small chunks
  •  Shrimps: 200g, cleaned, deveined and head and tail removed
  •  Vinegar: 1tbsp
  •  Fresh lemon juice: 2tbsp
  •  Light soya sauce: 1tbsp
  •  Spring onions: 3tbsp, finely chopped
  •  Coriander leaves: 3tbsp, finely chopped
  •  Button mushrooms: 4-5, chopped fine
  •  Shitake mushrooms: A few, soaked in water and thinly sliced
  •  Spring onions white part: 2tbsp
  •  Garlic: 6 cloves, finely chopped
  •  Ajinomoto (optional): ¼tsp

(NOTE: Vegetarians can use finely sliced beans, carrots, etc)

METHOD

#For the chicken stock

  •  Boil and simmer the ingredients for 1 hour. Then strain and keep the stock aside.
  •  Discard the vegetables and bones.

#For the soup

  •  In a wok add 1tbsp oil. Add garlic and white part spring onions. Saute for a few seconds. Then add chicken and saute a few seconds.
  •  Now add the mushrooms and prawns and saute for few seconds.
  •  Now add the stock, vinegar and soya sauce.
  •  Make a slurry of beaten egg and corn flour. You may add a little water to it. Then pour it into the stock and stir well.
  •  Keep stirring till the soup becomes slightly thick. Add coriander and the green part of the spring onions.
  •  Lastly, add the lemon juice and serve hot.

AMERICAN CHOPSUEY NON-VEG/ VEG

Legend has it that while he was visiting New York City, Chinese ambassador Li Hung Chang’s cooks invented the dish for his American guests at a dinner on August 29, 1896. Composed of celery, bean sprouts and meat in a tasty sauce, the dish was supposedly created to satisfy both Chinese and American palates. Eventually, it came to Tangra. The American Chopsuey is sweet and sour in taste with a bright orangeish-red in colour. Vegetarians can skip the chicken and the egg.

INGREDIENTS

#For the crispy noodles

  •  Water: 8 cups
  •  Salt: 1tsp
  •  Chow/noodles: 2 packets
  •  Flour: 6tbsp
  •  Oil: For deep frying

#For the chopsuey

  •  Oil: 4tbsp
  •  Chicken: 1 cup raw shredded
  •  Onion: ½ cup, sliced lengthwise and thinly
  •  Celery: 1tbsp, chopped very fine
  •  French beans: ½ cup sliced diagonally and very thin
  •  Carrots: ½ cup, sliced long and very thin
  •  Capsicum: ½ cup, sliced very thin
  •  Cabbage: 2 cups, thinly shredded lengthwise
  •  Chicken stock/veg stock: 1 cup
  •  Corn flour: 1tbsp, mixed in a little water
  •  Vinegar: 3tbsp
  •  Tomato ketchup: 3tbsp
  •  Sugar: 2tbsp
  •  Thin soya sauce: ¼tsp
  •  Salt: ¼tsp, or according to taste
  •  Red colour: A pinch
  •  Ajinomoto (optional): ¼tsp
  •  Egg: 1, fried
  •  Beansprouts (optional): ½ cup

METHOD

#For the crispy noodles

  •  Boil noodles with salt. Drain and rinse.
  •  When cold, sprinkle flour. Separate with a fork.
  •  Deep-fry the noodles. Remove and place on absorbent paper. Keep aside.

#For the chopsuey

  •  Heat oil in a wok. Add chicken, onion, celery. Stir fry lightly for 2-3 minutes,
  •  Then add beans, carrots, capsicum, cabbage. Stir-fry for 1 minute. If using beansprouts add it now.
  •  In the stock add cornflour, vinegar, tomato sauce, sugar, soya sauce, a pinch of red colour and ajinomoto. Mix well and add to the  vegetables. Cook till the sauce boils and thickens. Check for seasoning.
  •  Serve over crispy noodles and garnish with a fried egg.

CHILLI CHICKEN

This is one of the most popular dishes in Chinese restaurants in Kolkata. Each restaurant has their own style of making this iconic dish. Many batter-fry the chicken. Mine is simple without any deep frying.

INGREDIENTS

  •  Chicken: 800g, cut into 2-inch size pieces and wiped dry
  •  Soya sauce: 3tbsp
  •  Vinegar: 4tbsp
  •  Green chillies: 6, chopped finely
  •  Oil: 3tbsp
  •  Sugar: ½tsp
  •  Thick dark soya sauce: 1tbsp
  •  Salt: ¼tsp
  •  Black pepper: ½tsp
  •  Ajinomoto (optional): A pinch
  •  Onions: 2, quartered
  •  Capsicum: 1, quartered

METHOD:

  •  Marinate the chicken with light and dark soya sauces, vinegar, green chillies, sugar, black pepper, ajinomoto and salt. Keep in fridge for 2 hours.
  •  Heat oil in a wok. Add onions and saute for 30 seconds. Then add capsicum and the chicken with the marinade. Cook on medium flame till chicken is tender.
  •  Just before serving, turn the flame on high and garnish with some slit green chillies.

PRAWNS IN GARLIC SAUCE

This dish is also very popular in Tangra. It consists of big prawns in a luscious sauce and is to be had with steamed rice or noodles.

INGREDIENTS

#For the batter fried prawns

  •  Garlic: 1tbsp, fried till golden, make into a paste and kept for use in the sauce
  •  Prawns: 12 large, shelled and deveined
  •  Garlic paste: 1tsp
  •  Ajinomoto (optional): ¼tsp
  •  Salt: ¼tsp
  •  Arrowroot: 4-5tbsp, dissolved in a little water

#For the sauce

  •  Stock: 1 cup
  •  Tomato ketchup: 2tbsp
  •  Sugar: 2tbsp
  •  Vinegar: 4tbsp
  •  Garlic paste: Fried
  •  Salt: ½tsp
  •  Corn flour: 1tbsp
  •  Tandoori colour: A pinch

METHOD

#For the batter-fried prawns

  •  Mix all the above ingredients with the prawns. Deep fry like pakoras.

#For the sauce

  •  In the stock add tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, fried garlic paste, salt, corn flour and tandoori colour. Mix well.
  •  Heat the sauce and let it boil stirring constantly. The sauce will thicken slightly. Just before serving add the prawns.
  •  Garnish with spring onions.

SZECHUAN NOODLES WITH CHICKEN AND PRAWNS / VEGETARIAN

A Chinese meal is never complete if there are no noodles. Szechuan sauce is a hot and spicy sauce that came from Sichuan (Westernised to Szechuan) province in southwest China. It is from the Sichuan cuisine and has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chillies. It sits very well on our Indian palate.

INGREDIENTS

  •  Noodles: 2 packets, boiled
  •  Chicken: ½ cup, sliced thinly
  •  Prawns: ½ cup, shelled, deveined, head and tail removed
  •  Light soya sauce: 6tbsp
  •  Chilli oil: 2tbsp
  •  Ajinomoto (optional): ½tsp
  •  Red chilli sauce: 1tbsp
  •  Tomato sauce: 1tbsp
  •  Vinegar: 1½tbsp
  •  Egg: 1, made into a thin omelette then rolled and cut into strips.
  •  Garlic: 1tbsp grated
  •  Onions: 2 large, sliced thinly
  •  Cabbage: 2 cups shredded
  •  French beans: ½ cup, thinly sliced diagonally
  •  Capsicum: ½ cup, thinly sliced
  •  Spring onions: ½ cup, sliced long
  •  Carrots: ½ cup, shredded
  •  Dry red chillies: 3

#For chilli oil

  •  Refined oil: 2 cups
  •  Ginger: ½-inch piece, crushed
  •  Red hot chilli powder: 4tbsp

METHOD:

  •  Heat 2tbsp of chilli oil and lightly fry the noodles so that they are thinly coated with oil. Remove and keep aside.
  •  Now heat 5tbsp oil in a wok. Fry garlic, onions and red dry chillies.
  •  Now add carrots and beans and fry for 2 minutes.
  •  Now add the chicken. Fry for 2 minutes. Then add prawns and fry 30 seconds.
  •  Now add all other vegetables and stir-fry for 2 minutes
  •  Now slide in the noodles and all the sauces. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
  •  Serve hot garnished with omelette strips and spring onions.

#For chilli oil

  •  Heat oil in a pan. Do not let it smoke.
  •  Add chilli powder and crushed ginger. Stir well.
  •  Remove from heat and let it cool for 30 minutes. Then strain through a muslin cloth.
  •  Store in a bottle. At room temperature you can store for a month. In the fridge it will last longer.

Durri Bhalla is a cookery expert and author of Indian Bohra Cuisine and Inner Truth To Good Health And Weight Loss. You can find her at @DurriBhallaKitchen on Instagram, Durri’s Kitchen on Facebook and Durri Bhalla on YouTube

Last updated on 17.07.22, 02:50 AM
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